Friday, January 16, 2015

Passion + Mind + Body = Successful Education

Can high school change lives? YES.
As a recent high school grad, and having just started my second semester of university, I really feel the need to share my thoughts on high school.  I'm definitely not going to say that high school is unimportant.  High school is extremely important for many reasons, but I think it's about time that it starts looking a little different.  Sometimes it is nice to keep things the same, that's where it's comfortable; but in our rapidly changing world, education must change along with it in order to stay relevant.  I know it's probably easier said than done, but here are my thoughts.

The other day my younger sister asked me if, so far, have I used anything I learned in high school in university.  My immediate answer was no.  For the most part, that's true.  There is a lot that students are required to know that isn't necessarily helpful in life.  Those are the same things that students painfully memorize (or don't), scribble down on a test, and never think about again.  Of course there are a handful of things I remember very clearly and will never forget.  When I ask myself why, I realize it's because it had to do with what I'm passionate about.  Those things have helped shape who I am and will always be with me.

To be completely honest, one thing I wasn't very passionate about was gym class, physical education, or whatever you want to call it.  I really tried to be, but being in a room with like a billion sweaty students while basket balls fly in every direction is just not something I will ever look forward to.  At times, it actually seemed a little bit torturous.  But that's not to say I don't like being active.  I love anything and everything outdoors.  For example, hiking!  There's something about being in nature that just makes the body feel so wonderful.  It's not necessarily the same feeling you will find in a school gymnasium.

Even though I think it should be done a little differently, I still think it's great that the public education system makes a point about teaching how to have a healthy body.  But what we're really lacking is social emotional learning.  Our minds are just important as our bodies, and I could write out all sorts of mental health facts for you (like, almost a quarter of all deaths in people aged 15-24 are caused by mental illness) but instead I'll direct you to the fast facts from the Canadian Mental Health Association.  As you can see by reading those facts, we're all affected by mental illness.  High school is a very important time to learn how to take care of our mental health.  And I don't just mean take some notes on stress management...I mean seriously learn.  Actually putting a focus on mental health will benefit our population in so many ways.

While I was in high school, I recall attending a conference where we heard from teachers and school district people about how education should change.  I learned a bit about prescribed learning outcomes, and that over the years nothing has been removed from what students have to learn, it has just been added to.  I've seen teachers struggle to fit it all into one year and I've seen students stress over things that aren't at all relevant to each of our lives.  The way we keep doing things kind of made me think of a song, which I've included at the end of this post, and I hope it makes you think.

Of course there are some things, basic knowledge, that students should be required to learn.  By that I especially mean learning how to learn.  From what I remember, I feel that my time in elementary school did allow me to do that, and I was excited to use my skills in high school to continue moving forward.  But then it seemed more like life paused for five years while everyone scrambled to remember as many random facts as they can at the same time as attempting to figure out who they are and what to do with their life.  When we finally get to go on with life, students are often lost as to what to do next.

I love school so much, and I think teachers are some of the most amazing people ever.  There are many problems in the world, and I strongly believe the solution to many things begins with a proper education.  For us, it seems that high school would play a more successful role in our lives if it's focus were on students passions (what is interesting and relevant for them to learn about) along with both our physical and emotional well-being.  Just picturing youth receiving that kind of education makes me smile.

My hope is simply that this sparks new ideas and initiates conversation.  I think the world is a pretty amazing place, and everyone deserve to feel that they fit into it.  We're not all the same, so it's time to learn how to embrace our differences and use them to change the world.

PS: also just want to add that I'm in no way wanting to say that I regret my high school experience at all and I am extremely grateful for my teachers :)

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